Resurrection (2022) Movie Review

Resurrection premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Films which hinge on a central revelation are difficult to talk about. The experience of a film like this can be significantly altered if one already knows the revelation ahead of time. I won’t go into much detail about the plot of Andrew Semans’ Resurrection, for this reason. Just suffice it to say that your curiosity and subsequent shock at the revelation in Resurrection are required components to enjoying the film. And I think the film thoroughly fumbles its central conceit.

Which is not to say that the mystery surrounding the strange situation unfolding in front of us is not compelling, nor that the reveal itself is not mystifying and entrancing in its own right. Margaret (Rebecca Hall) is successful at her job. She is a slightly hovering parent to her almost 18 year old daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman). She appears to have everything put together in her life, until she sees, out of the corner of her eye, a man from her past sitting in the audience at a biology conference.

The very sight of the man throws her into a spiral of panic attacks and paranoia. She confronts the man, David (Tim Roth), in a park and tells him to leave her and her daughter alone. David appears nonplussed. He politely takes his leave, but it is clear that something is sinister about him. He continues popping up in the background of Margaret’s life, forcing her to take sever precautionary measures to protect her daughter, who, as a result, begins to think her mother is mentally unwell.

Somewhere near the end of the film’s second act, Hall delivers a lengthy, emotionally raw monologue which lays out exactly who David is and the events which transpired between him and Margaret many years ago. It is a transfixing scene, which holds in a oner on Hall’s face, slowly pushing in as she delivers the keystone of her riveting performance.

Unfortunately, the scene does not serve as a keystone for the plot. The first half of the narrative is inherently engaging. We yearn for answers to the extreme reaction that Margaret has at the presence of this man, who is seemingly doing nothing but sitting in public places in the vicinity of Margaret. But this concealed background, once it is finally opened up to us, is not enough to hang a slow-burn psychological thriller on.

The story of David and Margaret’s past is certainly unique. There are elements of it which no one could possibly predict, and which elude logic even when they are explicated. However, the story begins to lose its way as soon as this information comes out. The desperation of Margaret increases, and the insidiousness of David grows more prominent, and these two characters meet in the middle in an underwhelming final act full of gaslighting, threats of violence, and hard to belief psychological manipulations.

When we finally reach the climax, we are met with a confusing pair of scenes that are more inclined to make you believe this is all a fantasy than to provide you a reasonable resolution. Given how heightened the emotional registers are by the end of the film, it is a stretch to buy into the abstractness of this conclusion. To follow this character through the most excruciating PTSD of her life, and seeing her relapse into an abusive past, and then to watch a climax and epilogue which suggest the possibility that none of these emotions are valid, is a strange place to leave this story. Of course, we can interpret this final scene as we wish, but I question the effectiveness of presenting a character in the wake of intense trauma and then pulling the rug out from under that experience.

Director Andrew Semans has provided a chilling, tense psychological thriller. But his script leaves me overly cold. I invested fully in the turbulent emotional journey of this character, only to find little satisfaction in the payoff. Propping this material up are Hall, Roth, and Kaufman, who all give capable performances. Hall, in particular, keeps this material from sinking into a mire of misery.

Resurrection: C+


As always, thanks for reading!

—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)

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